The outcome of the 2000 presidential election was in doubt for more than a month after the votes were cast. Finally, the Supreme Court intervened to halt vote-counting in Florida and award the state’s electoral votes, and with it the White House, to George W. Bush.
While maintaining intransigent opposition to both corporate-controlled US parties, the Democrats and Republicans, the WSWS explained that the bitter struggle in Florida was of decisive importance to the working class because of what it revealed about the break with democratic norms by all sections of the US ruling class.
From the beginning of the US presidential election campaign, the WSWS focused attention on the growth of social inequality and the vast gulf between working people and the politicians of both capitalist parties.
Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, refused to make any appeal to popular hostility to the right-wing conspiracy that had led to the impeachment of Clinton, going so far as to choose President Bill Clinton’s most public critic in the Democratic Party, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, as his running mate.
On election night, November 7, it was becoming clear that Gore was leading in the popular vote and was the likely winner in the Electoral College, assuming his lead in Florida held up. The Bush campaign moved decisively, in collaboration with the Republican-controlled state government in Florida, headed by the candidate’s brother, Jeb Bush, and the right-wing Fox News network, where George W. Bush’s cousin, John Ellis, headed the election desk and initiated the claim that Bush had won Florida.
From the beginning, the WSWS paid very close attention to the suspicious nature of the results in the state of Florida. WSWS reporters went to Florida and published on-the-spot reports and interviews with working people as the crisis unfolded. It became clear that the Republicans had engaged in a campaign of voter intimidation and fraud, including the setting up of checkpoints and roadblocks in predominantly black areas on Election Day. During the crucial Florida recount, they attempted to upset the vote counting through physical violence.
One extraordinary event followed another. While recounts continued in several counties, Florida’s Republican secretary of state, Katherine Harris, moved to certify Bush the winner of the election, only to be blocked by the Florida State Supreme Court, which found, quite correctly, that this action violated the most basic right in a democracy—the right to vote and have every vote counted.
The Republican-controlled state legislature discussed overturning the popular vote entirely and awarding the state’s electoral votes to Bush by legislative fiat, encouraged by suggestions by right-wing justices on the US Supreme Court that “there is no right of suffrage” for the American people in a presidential election and that states might act as they saw fit.
The outcome was ultimately to be decided in the notorious Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, in which a 5-4 majority ordered an end to the Florida recount and then declared that its ruling could not be used as a precedent for any future action. The court had concocted a legal theory for the sole purpose of achieving its desired result of installing Bush in the White House.
Only a few days before the Supreme Court ruling, WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North gave an address to a meeting in Sydney, Australia, reviewing the far-reaching significance of what was taking place in the United States. “What the decision of this court will reveal is how far the American ruling class is prepared to go in breaking with traditional bourgeois-democratic and constitutional norms,” he said. “A substantial section of the bourgeoisie, and perhaps even a majority of the US Supreme Court, is prepared to do just that. There has been a dramatic erosion of support within the ruling elites for the traditional forms of bourgeois democracy in the United States.”
After the court’s ruling, a WSWS Editorial Board statement, “The Supreme Court overrides US voters: a ruling that will live in infamy,” explained that the decision to allow Florida to certify the results of the election without including recounted results represented a “fundamental and irrevocable break with democracy and the traditional forms of bourgeois legality.”
We condemned the capitulation of Gore and the Democrats, along with the liberal establishment as a whole, to the Supreme Court’s intervention.